How To Treat, Soothe & Bring Boils To A Head

Boils are skin abscesses that can develop for a number of reasons but common culprits are an ingrown hair and plugged sweat glands (armpits and groin area especially). They start out somewhat sore when touched but if allowed to flourish, they will continue to swell in size and become extremely painful…some can grow to the size of an egg!

ExamplesAt first glance you might mistake it for a pimple but until it comes to a head, you’ll find it very, very painful to touch and no matter how much you squeeze it (if you can tolerate the pain), very little (if any) pus will expel.

The best way to get rid of one is to start treatment as soon as you notice it forming (can feel like a tender, sore lump when first developing). If they become extremely large, soft and ready to expel, they’re better tackled by a doctor who will lance it, drain it, pack it and send you on your way with a prescription for penicillin or antibacterial cream.

Side Note: You might recall scenes in historical based movies of nuns heating small glass globes or jars then applying them to a poor soul’s body. This actually was something done for boils, the heat inside the glass would create a vacuum when openings were stuck on the skin which would then draw out the infection. Imagine how painful that was! The good news is, it’s pretty easy to take care of things yourself with a lot less fuss.

To begin:

Help fight the infection by soaking in a hot bath with Epsom salts (keeping the afflicted part under water). You can also apply warm packs or cloths. The heat increases circulation and encourages your body to focus on that spot and attack the infection. Do this a couple times a day and you should see results quickly. Keep it up until the boil has completely gone. If handled promptly, there will be no pus to drain since your body will take care of it.

If things are too far gone and you want to bring it to a head (ripen it) so it will soften and erupt, here’s what you can do (continue heat treatments as directed above):

  • Saturate a bandaid pad with a few drops of tea tree oil then cover abscess.
  • Regularly soak in lavender water (scroll down page for recipes). Can also use as a compress.
  • Slather honey over the spot.
  • Apply a fresh sliced tomato or tomato paste on top of it. The acid from the fruit will help soothe and ripen quicker.
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice, drizzle over top or soak a cotton ball with it and bandage in place. Same idea as above.
  • Poultice: 1 TBS alum + 2 oz fresh tomato juice. Mix together then apply, covering completely. Wrap with cheesecloth, remove after 15 minutes and wash off.
  • Regularly slather on garlic oil (instructions found on bottom of page) to hasten things along.

Old Wives Remedies:

  • Completely cover it with a piece of fatty bacon (raw), bandage in place and leave on overnight.
  • The crusty heel from a stale loaf of bread is soaked in hot milk then placed on the abscess and bandaged in place. Do several times a day until ripened.

It will be ready to open up with little pressure when the top softens and you see a yellow pus dot in the center (just like with a pimple). Once it opens up to drain, the relief will be instant and almost overwhelming. There will be a lot of fluid draining…you’ll be surprised at the amount! Keep the surrounding skin as clean as possible and disinfect regularly. Cover wound with a sterilized bandage.


  • If you notice reddening or red streaking around the boil or patient is feverish or experiences chills (before or after eruption), seek professional medical care.
  • People with diabetes and weakened immune systems should have a doctor handle this.
  • Remember that you’re dealing with a bacterial infection (staph), wash hands well before and after treatment. Once draining starts, wearing latex gloves while cleaning it up is a good idea.
  • If you have a cluster of them, these are called carbuncles and should be looked at by a doctor.

Please Note: These are simply notes I have collected, they are not professional medical advice.

Related Posts

Harvest Time: Cold Storage Ideas & Root Cellars How To Make Quesadillas: {Quick & Easy Meal Idea}


    • anonymous

    I used to suffer from painful recurring boils. A friend told my to swab my nose with neosporin every day. It did not get rid of the existing boil that I had but since I started doing this every day, I haven’t had a boil for years. I hope this helps someone. I remember how painful those things are.

    • Baymax

    I had a nasty looking but small boil on my boob, so I put antibiotic ointment containing bacitracin and polymyxin, put on a bandaid over night. Next morning, a white head! Lots and lots of pus came out. Now I’ve added turmeric to the mix and put it on under a bandaid to give a bit of natural help.

    • Jermaine

    Will ichthammol ointment help my boil pop ?

    • releived

    I had a boil start on my upper thighs near my groin..almost the the crease between my leg and trunk. It became very painful due the abrasion from walking. the day after I noticed it I started applying a warm compress for 15-30 minutes with a hot water bottle on top of the compress to keep it warm. After the compress I applied tea trea oil to the spot. I did this 3-4 times/day for the 2nd and 3rd day after I noticed it. no head developed. during the night (the 3rd night I had it) it drained on its own! I woke up stuck to my sheets and the smell was awful, but I had relief! I gently encouraged more draining and soaked in a warm tub with Epsom salt. It appears to be healing nicely!

    • Rosey O

    Hello everyone, it is good to know that others suffer as I do. What I have found that helps me is going to the dermatologist when I feel a boil starting (I get them in my underarms a lot). She injects me with a steroid into each boil and they disappear. My primary doctor just wanted to cut the boil. Having the boil disappear is better than having it cut. Good luck to us all. Im 33 and have been getting them since I was in my 20s.

    • Shameeka

    I have a boil on the back of my neck that is the size of a egg. I have been applying hot towels and taking extremely hot baths. Still no result at all. I have high blood pressure and I am a diabetic. Its runs my pressure up every time I think about draining it. Can someone please give me some advice as to what I should do

    • Martin

    I have suffered with boils for 7 years now. My mother and sister also suffers but not as severe as mine. I got them under both armpits, it was so painful! Doctors stuck needles in side, lanced, but it just use to come back, sometimes brought 3 new friends along!! I had all the skin and sweat glands removed under my arms, they grafted skin from my leg and spend 22 days in hospital! 3 years later and no more boils…..under my arms!! Now they started in my groin and at the moment ive got a golfball on the back of my leg and need to ripen it! Im going to make an epsom salt paste no and see if that wil do the trick! My heart goes out to everybody that suffers from boils, nobody will know what we go through before they experience it for themselves!

    • In pain

    I have recently started a boil on my buttocks. Lower left. I have NEVER been in so much pain! I can’t sit, stand, walk ,sleep. It is deep within the tissue and no head. What can I do to bring it to a head? This is aweful

    • angel

    I have a boil in my ear it hurts so bad all the way down to my jaw what can I do to soothe it.

    • Kayla

    I have had a boil on my stomach that has been there for about 3 days.
    I have tried the rice sock it still doesn’t have a head. It hurts soo bad! What can I do??
    I don’t want to go to the doctor. My husband just had a bunch on his armpit. He popped them and put some
    Ointment on them. Can I do that?? Also I have a baby can he get it??

    • Success

    I recently had a blister on my belly line. I believe it’s due to my weight and my belt may have pinched the skin causing the blister. i tried everything hot compresses.. tried lancing it myself (Big failure) after suffering i followed the advise of some that i saw on the internet. CVS sells their brand of ichthammol ointment. I placed this on a large bandaid and then over the blister. changed it every 3 hours then that very night when i took the bandaid of i saw it was at a “Head” took a pin and touched it and POP…. at least 3 tablespoons of goo oozed out and it stinks…. but i’m no longer in pain… just thought i’d share for those wiling to try.

    • Paolo

    Had a boil a month ago due to exposure to polluted water (post rain surf)
    Had it lanced now I have another one. Have used heat compresses, and antibiotics, also sage oil which mysteriously numbs the pain. I believe these are caused by staph and will continue to contaminate unless you sanitize everything. Bleach and soap, tea tree oil and hot water

    • Jas

    I got boil in my left armpit a year ago. I was unaware of the situation so it increased and finally doctor operated it. It was awful experience with so much pain. ๐Ÿ™
    Now, I am again feeling that type of irritation in my right armpit(the other one). I think it is just the initial stage. I don’t want to feel that pain again.
    Can anybody suggest anything??? ๐Ÿ™

    • misty m.

    I just got a boil on my outer thigh to finally cone to a head a drain. I made a salt paste and apply to a band aide. Left it on all day. Went to take a shower and it opened and started draining. I know have triple antibiotic cream and a large band aide for it to continue to drain.

    • Dee

    if you apply tea tree oil (can but large bottles cheaply at beauty supply store) to face or really any area where u have discomfort.i found that if i apply this on a regular basis (everyday) none show up at all. i get black heads on my groin area. it even clears the blackheads. i have also used ginger oil. tea tree oil works the best, but the ginger oil has the antibacterial. so i usually alternate now. if u have acne put the thin layer of tea tree oil on your problem greasy areas and ur skin will literally drink shinny face afterwards either. i use it for itching also. ill try cortisone and it wont work. i put tea tree oil and get instant relief. tea tree oil and rinsing with vinegar (any kind ) usually easier if you add it to washing when bathing-this kills odors, remaining bacterial. oh—dont do if you have an open cut…lol burns worse then alcohol. if no cut you only smell it. dont put near eyes…lol burns, but the tea tree oil and daily vinager wash should hook you up on the boils. if you popping a boil- when its ready u have to get the in grown hair or head out of it. if even apiece of it remains, it will heal up and come right back later.hope this helps someone! bye

    • Sharon

    I just must share I read somewhere hard boil egg discard the yolk and hold the boiled whites on the boil. This has been very successful for a boil on my back near my shoulder. I kept the boiled water on the stove and kept putting the boiled white back in the hot water after the egg white Cooled. I probably reapplied the hot white on boil at least 12 times then all of the sudden it broke and drained and drained i just applied light pressure next to assist the drainage relief at last!

    • Doreen

    I have had boils for years, it’s hereditary. I was wondering if anyone has had trouble getting pregnant because I have been trying for 3 years and nothing. I have been wondering if maybe the infection in my body is causing me not to get pregnant. Thank you for all the comments, I thought I was all alone.

    • Doreen

    I have had boils for years, it’s hereditary. I was wondering if anyone has had trouble getting pregnant because I have been trying for 3 years and nothing. I have been wondering if maybe the infection in my body is causing me not to get pregnant.

    • freaking about to be in tears

    OMG…..MY face hurts so bad I can’t hardly bare it…..I have begged my doc to lance it and he refuses to do so….I have had it 2 days and it is so big that I am embarrassed to go out in public iv tried so many things …….need to just lance it myself lol cause seems like it will be the only thing that may help

    • Sheniqua

    Maaaan my dad had them all the time as my mom has told me from time to time.. And now I get them once every blue moon and booooy I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy they are the root of all evil and are painful I have one Noe between my butt cheeks which I feel is the wrost place to get one.. I’ve cried my eyes out I’m single and explaining to people that you date or whatever who you want to take you seriouscan be a pain because they don’t understand a they think is disgusting & that you are dirty

    • gdiva25

    I just use egg whites and boil ease brings to a head quickly. .

    • Andy

    Wow, I’m amazed at how many people suffer from these bastards! I’ve just had an operation on the back of my neck which was about an inch deep/wide to remove what I thought was ingrown hair but heavily infected turns out it was just a boil. I’ve had it drained but not closed over just stuffed and plastered! Now 1 had popped up on my earlobe! I have never felt pain like this behind the ear. First things first! Change diet! Workout! And look after your body! Last year I was in the best shape of my life and after a lot of things going on my life just spiralled down! Stopped training and using saunas/steams/sunbeds, eating takeaways every night and smoking cigs/weed my skin is just breaking out all over the show! Pain is an understatement! Moral of the story, your body is a temple! Look after it and it’ll look after you!

    • Heather

    For those people who are suffering from recurrent boils in your groin and/or armpit area, look up hidradenitis suppurativa. I’ve had it for years. Doctors seem to dismiss it without helping.

    I came here because I’ve had a large boil on my neck for about 3 days. The first day I couldn’t sleep because it hurt to turn my head. Now it seems to have gotten smaller but it still hasn’t drained. I’ve been alternating between Ichthammol and hot compresses. I’m going to heat a piece of aloe and try that now.

    Thanks for the info!

    • VINU

    When the boil start to come our and you become aware of it,simply takes vicks or deepheat and rup on the boil

    Rup as hard as you can ad produce extra heat on top of boil.

    This will stop the boil progressing any further
    If the boil has gone big than heat alo vera sap and bandage on the boil
    Leave it for the night and it will soften it and you can than press next morning and take out the eye

    • Betty

    I have had an abscess on my face since June. I went to the emergency room four times two times it had to be cut up and drained, placed on two medications which didn’t work. I have been heating up hot water placing it on a wash cloth and putting it in a zip lock bag on my abscess. I’ve had two appointments with my plastic surgeon and she won’t remove it until all infection is gone and it is the size of a pimple.

    I want to inform everyone who is saying they have had boils and abscess. Be very careful when outside or near any type of bug. I was doing yard work and a bee decided too sting me right in the abscess which I’m finally getting the stinger removed by using a hot cloth on my face and was able to stick a needle in it and a lot of blood came out no puss, but I no longer feel the stinger.

    Bugs are attracted to boils and abscess because if the bacteria and blood inside them.

    I’m using Vicks now and it’s not really doing much I feel no pain.

    Just wish it would get smaller so the doctor would remove it.

    • Tino

    Been getting boil for last year now… And keept getting them my doctor send me for blood test to see if I’m diabetic or other infection in my body the result was all negative…. By reading this article make me feel so much better knowing I’m not the only one keep getting boil….. Hate it so much… But we all have to dealt with it…. Hope everyone find there on remedy… By the way I have one in my inner tigth right now and so painfull…. Good luck everyone god bless….

    • cindy

    i have one on the inside of my right leg it is real close to you know where went to my dr this morning and he said he could not break it and gave me a prescription for anit biotic in pill form i am from canada is it possable to get the cream you where telling the others about where i live

    • Jenn

    I don’t know how old this thread is, so not sure who will see this; but I’ve had boils all my life until recently. After I was diagnosed with Celiac disease. It’s very hard to go gluten free cold turkey, but once I became pretty consistent, my boils stopped recurring. Boils are a symptom, so getting tested might be something to look into. As far as getting rid of them, I’ve found that the band aids with the neosporin on the pads draw them to a head relatively quickly.

    • Rose

    I got an abscess on my face yesterday right under my nose. It is the most painful thing I have ever experienced. Went to the ER and they would not lance it. I did get IV Clindamycin and a prescription for oral clindomycin. It hurts so bad and won’t com to a head. I need help. Do I pop it? Will it pop on it’s own? How long will it last? Please help me

    • nicole

    I have been dealing with boils since my teenager years…they usually pop on they on…my two sisters and mom get them bad…I recently had a baby about a month ago…I’ve been getting like six or seven boils at a time…I recently had to go get two cut open by the doctor on, my groin area…that’s was the most painful thing…they have me one of the strongest antibiotic and that was it…a couple days later I had already had one on my right armpit…the doctor didn’t cut it because he said it was to hard…he told me to take medcine and it should get better….well it hasn’t the pain is so unbearable I can’t sleep can’t lay down and can’t even hold my 1 month old baby…thanks for my husband…its has got so big that I got red strips and caught the child…I’m refusing to go back to doctor that’s the worst pain ever…I’m trying the vicks I just put it on it and put it on a rag and put the rag
    On top of boil…I’m hoping it works I feel the heat from the vicks so I go

    • Kianni

    Hey guys, I have a boil on my knee ๐Ÿ™ it’s really pain full now an the pain is running up my leg to my groin area :'( wondering, can I use just normal cooking salt to soak?? Will that work?? Also I read someone tried Vicks?? Does anyone know if that works? Or is worth a try?? Please help :'(

    • Gina

    I am 16 and I have been having reoccurring boils underneath my armpits since I was 9 and I feel that every time the doctors lance it, it comes back worse in the same spot so I think I’m going to settle for trying home remedies because I have had at least 15 since I was 9 and they don’t seem to stop

    • sally

    im having a very painful boil,ive actualy had it for a week now n its not becoming soft,i have used antibiotics but they dont seem to work so i have stoped taking them.this boil hurts like hell and i feel like im gonna lose my mind.please help

    • Nurse4You

    I get them fairly often underneath my arm-specifically my right arm pit-they get very sore, but heap on their own-thank God. I just had a large, almost, golf ball-sized one on my inner thigh for about a week. I was in pure agony and if it wasn’t for my husband and helpful children I wouldn’t have been able to get ANYTHING done. I was tempted to try all of the helpful solutions I’ve read so far but stuck with very very hot, wet compresses almost continually, on the affected area. This helped one time before with a stubborn one that refused to heal on its own. I even spent the night with wet heat on it. I had my family reheating, in a microwave, wash cloths and placing them directly on my boil-non stop. It took 24 hours of straight attention for it to rupture, but thank God it did. I know this may not work for everyone but certainly worked for me. I’d read about warm compresses for brief periods throughout the day, but I recommend as hot as you can safely stand it, without burning yourself, continuously. It’s tough to sit for a while to attend to it, but both times the stubborn ones came, it worked rather quickly. How this helps-as I feel all of your pain

    • Jean

    I have boils under each arm pit ..At least 5 under each one .. I have been using the warm compress, and one did drain .. I don’t know what to do after it drains, to make it not come back .. The other boils did not drain .. Sometimes its just to painful to wear a bra..

    I need a remedy that works .. Please ! someone ! anyone ! I want them gone !

    • Meghna

    I live in India , and for boils and anything with pus in it under the skin ( but with a head) we use a poultice made of a table spoon of wheat flour , a pinch of turmeric and a little bit of water ( to make it a dough) over a flame ; preferably in an iron vessel- and then place it over the boil – it should be warm to hot on skin ( not burning but definitely warm! ) and bandage it with gauze over night and it will be gone by morning!

    • Peter @Kenya

    Thank you soo much for everyone who took time to bring suggestions out of experiences to this traumatic thing called boil.Am right now at the heat of the thing!.right on my upper jaw is where this big boil is kicking me like am a product of hell.It’s making its own beats and the whole of that side is damn sick.Neck glands are now aching….Waaaaahhh!.The boil is still hard,so i can’t damned cornered.But all the same,i must pull through.Thank you for all ur advices.Let me try them.

    • Stacey

    Thanks for this! I will start giving these tips a try. I have dealt with these since the time I was about 8 years old, I am now 23 and I have six of them currently all in the thigh area, although my doctor referred to them more as abcesses that’s pretty much the only helpful thing she could share with me. I have taken countless antibiotics and they do keep them away for a few months or at least help make them a little less severe, but I still deal with an unbearable amount of pain most months so hopefully these things will help, because this pain is driving me nuts!

      • Stacey

      Sorry I noticed already that you did refer to them as abcesses, apparently I cannot read. Anyways, thanks again!

    • Onyinye

    Thanks for the great advice, the last one and the current one have been inside my nose – sneaky little bastards and l did not know what to do with them except steaming with hot water, l will try the tumeric honey drink

      • Jane harris

      Mupiricin ointment … especially for staph a. Put on finger and swirl round inside your nose

    • hadiba anwar

    I have had these boils for a really long time it is very painful look like i am going to die with the pain. I went to the doctors had antibiotcs but they went and come back if i go to hospital will they help me.

    • Lisa H...

    Boils…the same as mrsa? I started with one on my face and FINALLY a Dr. told me it was mrsa. It comes back from time to time I can’t afford to keep going back for meds. So I am foregoing modern medecine with the hope that homeopathic remedies will help.

    • Alex

    Well I have a question for you, how do you take care of one inside the ear? You obviously would have a hard time hot packing it, or keeping it under hot water. I’ve been getting this damn things in my ears for about 2 years now. THEY WONT STOP SHOWING UP! Its very painful, and I’m basically FORCED to wait until they form a head all on their own, which can sometimes take weeks.


    okay, so the skin around my boil is really hard and looks like a bigger lump; almost as if the cyst itself is on a bigger, harder thing, is it just the swelling because of the cyst or something else?

    • Michelle

    Thank you so much for all your suggestions! I have been plagued with boils for as long as I can remember… I had gone to my doctor and the only thing she ever told me was to keep dry and make sure I washed all my clothing, sheets, etc in hot water, but never had any suggestions of actually preventing them! Or what to do when they popped up. Thanks again!

    • Leka

    Apple cider vinegar works. A teaspoonful 2-3 times daily mixed in a little water or gatorade. My lumps vanished after a week. Keep taking it even after the boils are gone. *the taste will take some getting used to but is not horrible. Good luck to all.

    • Mouse

    I started getting boils on my inner thighs after I got waxed at a new place never happened before unt then now I get one-three a month they grow to the size of quarters on me but they never come to a head I have had a few lanced before but it’s to expencive. My dermatologist thinks I got the infection from the waxing place. I hope to try these ideas and find one that helps.

    • kenny

    I have been a constant victim of boils ever since college. I usually get them in my armpit (mostly the right one), granted I’ve had about 5 boils in both at the same time before (total nightmare). I normally wait till they run their course but once decided to treat myself. So I took ampiclox by beecham (ampicilline+cloxacillin) every 6 hours for five days and that did the trick. Presently I have a boil in my ear and a few under my right armpit which is excruciating. I guess some of us are just more prone to it than others. Remember that apart from ingrowing hair and plugged sweat pores, boils can be caused by staph infection so using antibiotics can treat them. Felt good reading from you all

    • Tabitha

    I have been getting boils now for a few year’s. My dad an both my brothers have been getting them there whole life..up until 2 years ago I didn’t have one but now I get a boil the size of an egg in between my legs at least once a week!! It’s sooooooo PAINFUL THAT I CAN NOT WALK AN HAVE MISSED TOO DAYS OF WORK!! I Can’t get it to come to a I’ve been in the tub but it’s hard an extremely PAINFUL to move.but my little brother has been chopping onions an using minced garlic an putting it on the boil an he says it helps him. I would like to know if that’s safe to do? BECAUSE I’M WILLING TO TRY ANYTHING I’M IN SO MUCH PAIN THAT I’VE ACTUALLY BEEN THROWING UP FROM THE EXCRUCIATING PAIN…PLEASE HELP

      • Linda

      Ok. You might think I’m crazy but. I found something that stops the itch AND relieved the pain. About abolished the damn thing. Ready. Ultrabright $1.00 toothpaste . Try it. I use it when a pimple comes. Yup. I’m upper 40ish . I freak out about those things now. I’mmemenopausal. My body is crazy but I’m not. Let me know if it helps you.

      • Katie

      I have been plagued by boils for a while now and sometimes I just canโ€™t get them in time. I have one now on my cheek that throbs and is as big as a golf ball. I canโ€™t even bend over to tie my shoes as the pain sears. I had an accident not too long ago and my doctor had given me lidocaine patches. So I thought what the heck and cut one to fit and it totally numbed the whole area. They are 12 hours on and 12 hours off. Not over the counter of course but if you get them regularly it is worth getting a box. There is also an aloe vera out for sunburns that has lidocaine it. Not as strong but may just be the ticket.

      • Toby

      Onion really works, I guarantee you.. but you might need to wait for the boils to come to a head first before putting some on.. I’ve been using the onion treatment 3times in a row now and the pain im feeling is tolerable as it really helps for a faster healing process, however boils kept reoccurring and i have one again now. >.< im trying out some posts here and will wait for the boil to ripen and burst before i will put the onions hoping it will suck out the pus and drain it. We can do this. God bless us!

      • Hillary P

      I TOTALLY AGREE W YOU!!! Doctors are often very rough & careless with an abscess. They NEVER numb it enough! After they cut it open [ which I screamed at the the doctor that I could feel everything as he cut] then he would distract me & I wouldn’t be looking & he’d push on my open abscess again & again! Using PRID [ a drawing salve sold @ Walgreens] & cutting an onion slice works very well & quickly! Just be VERY careful allowing doctors to Just cut on you!

    • Mary

    If you bath in a hot tub add baking soda to your hot bath. Like 2-3 cups to a full tub. It helps kill bacteria on your skin and in the water which can cause boils and other eruptions. This can also help women who get bladder infections easily.

    • Jacqui

    I’ve seen a lot of people using aloe how long do you heat it up for

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *